Birds Barbershop isn’t new news, so I’ll spare you the how-it-got-here details and average-number-of-haircuts-per-day numbers. This is about a boy and his hair: My two-years-without-a-haircut hair – unless you count the time that girl I was kind of dating kind of cut my hair.
My day began with a phone call from the family back in Louisiana – they were expecting an update on my unemployment status. Mom suggests shaving; Dad suggests a haircut. They’ve been to Austin once, and our server at Baby A’s was wearing a long-sleeved shirt and took her lip rings out before her shift started, so my parents don’t quite understand this place.
When our conversation ends, I growl. I growl because I was already going to get my hair cut today, and I was already planning on shaving. Growl. Growl. Growl. Even losing an invisible battle with my parents can’t ruin my day. I’m going to Birds Barbershop!
I hop off the bus and head for the doors. Two steps into the place, I’m a fan. High ceilings, a foosball table, magazines that I love reading but can’t afford, a bulletin board with up-to-date flyers! I’m already telling myself that I’m going to knife anyone I know who doesn’t get their hair cut here. In a city that wants to eat pizza during movies and eat waffles during comedy shows, it’s no surprise that there’s a place where you can drink beer while you get a haircut. Or, better yet, a haircut while watching live music with a beer in your hand.
I sneak a peek at the list of people waiting to get chopped, and next to my name, someone has written REVIEWER. Uh oh – I don’t want anyone to be nervous. This makes me nervous. The front desk lady offers me a beer, and I don’t drink beer, but, yes, today I would like a beer. I open the beer, and Lindsey calls my name.
Lindsey has pretty hair and nice teeth and had the day off of work. But someone called in sick, so Lindsey didn’t get the day off after all. She asks me what I want, and I tell her I trust her. As long as a stranger can describe me as “the guy with long hair,” I’m fine. She circles me, grabs a piece of my hair, and asks, “Can I–”
I cut her off and say, “Yes, please.”
And she’s off. Lindsey pauses between snips to see if I want another sip of my beer while she schools me on some Birds history, like how at last year’s Rancid show they gave people mohawks for free.
After my cut, the owner, Michael Portman, tells me he’s thinking of using the parking lot as a stage for SXSW. He’s fielding pitches for other in-store events, like a freestyle rap competition and a barbershop-style comedy show that incorporates haircuts and improv.
Birds is currently sponsoring the 2007 Air Guitar Championships, an event Portman holds close to his heart. His first weekend in Austin way back in 2003 featured a trip to the Alamo Drafthouse. He was hooked. Now the barbershop is mega-involved with what is fast becoming a tradition in Austin’s expanding line of annual comedy events. All of the finalists in the Air Guitar Championships will receive a rock star cut from the Birds’ experts before they hit the stage.
When Lindsey and I finish up, she asks me if I like her work. There’s a part of my brain that has been trained to tell the barber “yes” no matter what, because what’s done is done. But Lindsey has been cutting hair for a couple of years now and detects my auto-pilot response immediately. She politely asks me again, do I really like what she’s done?
I really do. My hair looks good.
The environment at Birds is addicting. The staff is fun. And, you know, maybe you don’t need a haircut right now, but wouldn’t it be fun to go get a trim on your lunch break? Then you’re there, and the pretty face behind the counter offers you a beer, and do you really want a beer this early? And then, before you know it, you’re a little tipsy and getting a mohawk next to the 10-year-old kid getting a mohawk next to the 40-year-old kid getting a mohawk. Then you tell all of your friends that they are absolutely crazy if they get their hair cut anywhere else in Austin, because, really, where else besides Austin can getting a haircut be an event like this?